In last week's post, I processed a lot about being a new mom. However, I forgot to mention what should be obvious advice about not reading a bunch of personal finance blogs on the same day you have to go back to work.
(Seeing the bliss of my stay at home mom friend was enough. Reading those blogs on top of it? I must have wanted to torture myself.)
Now that I have that overlooked nugget out of the way, I hope you enjoyed the previous post on booting perfectionism, finding happiness in creative projects, and the surprising mind-altering metabolism of sloths.
Here’s a continuing list of fly by night thoughts after one year as a working mom (picking up with number five).
#5. Productivity Looks... Different
I cut my child's nails today. I wrote a to-do list. Things are on the up and up!
While my thoughts may be slower (see Part 1), I have thoughts that count. I ruthlessly prioritize my time.
(Fun fact about sloths: They are surprisingly strong because they are composed of slow-twitch muscles. Even with 30 percent less muscle mass than other animals their size, they don’t use a lot of energy in order to have out of this world endurance.)
"Crushing it" on a literal level sounds kind of nice. How do I get that?
Well, I used to feel guilty about disappointing people I don’t even agree with. Now I don’t have time to care (and I don’t have time to think about how I don’t care). I accept when I approach things differently and I trust my vision. If only this clarity could be bottled and sold. Some people obtain it without having a baby. I guess I needed a good push.
More than ever before, my husband and I are a unit; a team where our family and community come first. If something trivial bugs us, we now have the ability to get over it really quickly. And we laugh a lot.
I know what I like. I know what I want. I genuinely wish others the best. And I move on. My son, my creative projects, my students, and my husband come first.
#6. Identity is a Funny Thing
I can’t tell if I know myself less than ever before or if I’m just extremely open-minded.
Becoming self-employed? Sounds great!
Working as a teacher the rest of my life? Sounds great!
Having only one kid? Cool!
Pregnant with a second child? Cool!
Earlier in my life, the idea of knowing myself was a mission I thought I could do all at once and be done with. Now I realize I’m an eternally morphing art piece. There are no finishing touches. There’s just me flying by the seat of my pants.
I have journals upon journals filled with thoughts I don’t even agree with. I could burn hours of philosophical work and not bat an eye.
Why? Because I’m in it for the journey like never before. I remember walking with my husband early on when I met him and he said something that always stuck with me...
“I just want to see what happens.”
He was far less depressed than me at the time. Now I understand why.
#7. Batching is My Friend
Batching is the tactic of setting aside time to work on one project all at once in a very focused manner (and with a predictable set schedule) so you don’t have to put energy into making as many decisions. Loss of productivity while switching tasks is scientifically proven. Furthermore, multi-tasking is something your neurons would like to tell you isn't real.
(Here is an excellent podcast about batching and time-blocking for artistic parents. My favorite quote? "Embrace the mess.”)
For me, batching takes discipline (but not in the way you might think).
This is because batching works against “quick bursts” of false accomplishment-style feelings.
I like closure.
I like mini pick-me-ups.
As a result, I have to fight against running around putting out fires. In other words, fill the big rocks in your jar first, then the little pebbles.
For example, I have tasks (like checking my email incessantly) that make me feel like I am moving forward. But in reality, I’m less efficient when I let email into my life like a slow drip. Instead, I should hose that sucker down all at once.
One final note concerning batching. Once my son lays down his head for a nap, there is no question in my mind what I am doing. (This is the blog that naps built.) And on Sundays? I make a lot of PBJs.
#8. Bodies Are Amazing
I've had a complicated relationship with my body over the years. I have a Cartesian split. I'm up in my head almost all the time.
I've ignored my body, beat the crap out of it, picked it apart, and basically wished I could exist as a thought. Being pregnant, giving birth, breastfeeding, THE WHOLE WORKS - it all helped me be in touch with myself as an animal.
I seriously prepped for my birth by watching Blue Planet, Animal Planet, and a ton of documentaries about monkeys and sloths.
Also, concerning losing baby weight, I knew my discipline was finite. Very finite. And I didn't want to get mixed up in an eating disorder again.
Therefore, I tried a healthy pace of losing one to two pounds per week (otherwise I’d risk releasing toxins in breast milk). And I tried doing it before going back to work. (Mostly because I didn’t want to buy new clothes.)
Also, I knew my head would spin at work for other reasons. I definitely didn’t need to be tired or hungry (or shopping for new clothes). When I cried my first day back at work, at least I knew I could come home and eat WHATEVER I wanted without feeling guilty.
In my new life as a mom, I love and respect myself. My son helped me with this, but I also did it for me.
#9. There’s No Perfect Time to Have a Child
I tried to get my master’s out of the way. I tried to get rid of all our debt. I tried to buy every used item we would ever need so we wouldn’t have to go shopping.
I also tried to obtain a very stable job (through an interview conducted THE DAY BEFORE HE WAS BORN).
Then he was born. (I got the job btw).
Moments of triumph and moments of regret poured in. I wished I had started a blog sooner (not to mention recorded 30 songs about history). Who thinks they can start a blog from their phone while breastfeeding? This nut.
I also wondered if we should have stayed in our smaller house to ease financial pressures.
All of this - not to mention I still struggle enormously with understanding his generation’s place in the future of our world (and how humans are undeniably destroying the planet).
I’m glad he has a safe and healthy place to be raised, but how can we help the overall picture be more sustainable? How can we help others? How can I feel less guilty about occupying our little space of the universe?
These questions churn in me constantly.
#10. Don't Underestimate a New Mom
I am incredibly motivated to contribute useful information and unique ideas. Petty thoughts have no room in my head. I have a deep source of joy and purpose. I’d love to radiate it. I’d love to help (even if I'm not sure how yet).
There’s a lot to figure out. I'm kind of a mess at times. I'm not sure where to start, but my intentions are good.
Even with a dazed look on my face, I’m usually processing something. My ability to plan is fully intact. My knowledge base is growing every day. I have so many women online and offline I look up to.
I could cry… but it’s out of gratitude.